When was the last time you read a “Top 10 tips” or “5 ways to” post? I mean read it, not skimmed it. If you’re like me, you probably give them a cursory glance to confirm that your opinions are shared by other experts, and then go on to the next thing.
AJ Kohn discussed this in his excellent post this week 124 Reasons This Post Could Save the Internet in 7 Seconds. Kohn’s article isn’t exactly about what the tongue-in-cheek title asserts; It’s actually a fabulously-written reminder about the importance of content-recall in our culture of content overload.
Kohn says it’s not enough to create great content, or noticeable content. You have to create memorable content.
To take his ideas one step further, I assert that content-driven display ads have a lot to learn from other areas of marketing where content creation has traditionally played a larger role. When display ads then work in tandem with owned and earned media, memorable content strategically binds the narrative together, which keeps messaging consistent across all digital touch-points.
So let’s apply some of Kohn’s ideas to display advertising.
Content skimming isn’t limited to the list-type articles I mentionned at the beginning of this post. On the Internet, skimming is a state-of-being. Therefore, readability is critical.
For display ads, think graphic readability. What’s the brand, what’s the message, and what does this ad do? Can a user who is in skimming mode glance at the ad and see it's value right away?
Display ads can do a lot more than they used to, which adds another layer to the challenge. As a result, the new creative designer is forced to incorporate UX elements into their ad designs.
It sounds simple, but making functionality intuitive isn’t always easy. Recall the case study about how Wikia’s March Madness ad confused users? Interactions were way down until they tweaked the ad to work in a more expected way – and by being agile and changing the way the audience interacts with the ad it became a smashing success.
From Creative Excellence to Content Excellence
The content-driven ads of the future no longer compete solely on the beauty of the ad creative. The content within them – videos, social feeds, white papers, image galleries, product reviews, the list goes on – must be in tune with your central narrative, and also compelling enough to stick.
Major brands like Coca Cola are shifting strategically from creative excellence to content excellence because of the evolution of brand story-telling.
Again here we see the theme where content is shared across media channels. When content shows promise on owned and earned channels, capitalize on it by pushing it out to paid media where you can reach a much broader audience.
In this quest for memorabilty, content creators will seek to tap into the emotions of the audience. But we should be careful to heed Kohn’s cry for authenticity: “Don’t obsess about whether your content is going to elicit emotion, bring your own to the table. Create passionately not programmatically.”
The Differentiated Publisher
Brands aren't the only beneficiaries of these trends. Publishers like Forbes are now offering premium display ad products which combine brand content with site content. This integrated approach commands better value, because they take the initial content weight off of the advertiser by providing part of it themselves.
But while publisher content is an excellent frame to engage the audience, advertisers still need to deliver something that is not just great -- it's going to have to be memorable.